The new Distinguished Warfare Medal will retain its place in the order of precedence among military decorations, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Feb. 19.
Much of the public discussion of the new medal has centered on its precedence. It ranks below the Distinguished Flying Cross and above the Bronze Star.
“We are not diminishing at all the importance of the Bronze Star — that remains an important award for our combat troops and will remain so,” Little said in a meeting with reporters.
Senior civilian and military leaders decided on where to place the new medal in the order of precedence, he added. “We expect this award to be granted pretty rarely, and that factored in to the decision (on its precedence),” he said.
Juliet Beyler, the Defense Department’s acting director of officer and enlisted personnel management, said in an interview after the announcement of the new medal that technological developments on the battlefield have changed the way service members fight.
“The services all came forward and said there are people … who are doing incredible things, and we wanted the ability to recognize them for those things,” she said.
Service members do not have to be physically present on the battlefield to contribute to success in combat. Unmanned aerial vehicle pilots and cyber specialists can be thousands of miles away from combat and make contributions to victory.
To be eligible to receive the award, a service member has to have direct, hands-on employment, such as an unmanned aerial vehicle operator dropping a bomb or a cyber specialist detecting and fending off a computer network attack.
Combatant commanders must certify the impacts of the action before the award is forwarded to the service secretary for approval. The secretaries may not delegate that authority.
Officials stressed that the medal is meant to recognize actions with direct effects on combat. Other awards are available to recognize service over a length of time, officials added, noting that the Distinguished Warfare Medal is not an end-of-tour award.